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Otterspool Animal Haven

Otterspool Animal Haven

Barlows Story; Told by a volunteer

“Big, butch and bear-like, Barlow certainly made an impression”

Barlow’s arrival at the age of 7 months caused a minor earthquake among Otterspool volunteer dog-walkers. First impressions were not good. I was somewhat alarmed by the sight of Margaret’s car rocking from side to side in the car park due to the rampaging monster within, just rescued from death-row in Derby. There was no reassurance later, when returning a dog to the kennels, to hear a very deep “Woof!” behind me. With the hairs standing up on the back of my neck, I turned round to face a big, butch, bear of a dog with a penetrating stare. The Hound of the Baskervilles had arrived! My first thought was “Margaret, if you think I am walking that you, you’ve got another think coming!” When an allergic reaction caused him to lose patches of fur and smell like a skunk, the image was complete: “Guard dog loose in scrap yard. Beware!”

In the event, it was me who had another think coming when my son, Adam, loved “the puppy” instantly. And thus Barlow became a year-long project for the Hayward family and Otterspool. Long-term medication eventually cleared up the mites and regular showers and swims improved the BO. To everyone’s delight a luxurious coat grew back and a very handsome and very cheerful dog emerged.

Early walks were a humbling experience. The “puppy” was as strong as a horse and as easy on the lead as a caged lion. Growing even and bigger and even stronger by the day, the adolescent could, and did, have two fully grown women down on the ground like a pack of cards. Very soon we knew he had “a little problem” with aggression towards dogs on a lead. Our cheerful companion could turn in an instant into a snarling, rampaging, lunging monster, as tall as Margaret when on his hind legs, terrifying everyone in the vicinity and requiring one strong man or at least two strong women to hold him in check.

Of course he came to play in our garden, of course he was in the house eventually, with his nose as high as the kitchen work surface. Here was the big surprise. He was a good as gold, a gentle giant with people and as bright as a button. Training was a sheer delight and soon he had gold stars in “sit”, “lie down”, “fetch”, “find” and a master’s degree in “wait”. Of course he found a special place in all our hearts. Who could not love this cheerful, intelligent, handsome fellow, even my husband enjoyed making him a cup of cold tea, which he rapidly came to expect (demand). He developed a very special relationship with Adam who was strong enough to take him on exciting woodland walks and river swims. They had quiet companionable times checking emails and watching telly too.

DNA tests revealed a benign combination of German Shepherd, Staffie and Toy Spaniel (must have been a big one). However, the “little problem”, while lessening a little, remained intractable and even the finest minds in dog training and behaviour could not find a cure. It was clear that a new home would need to involve a very strong person with dog handling experience.

Late last year, Barlow’s knight in shining armour arrived on the scene in the form of Ben, a tall, strong sheet-metal worker with arms of steel and extensive dog handling experience. It was love at first sight, even the initials were a match, and Barlow was in his new home for Christmas. As for the “little problem”, Ben would say, “What problem?” I have learned a little on this journey, including:

# I can hold on to a big dog on a lead, even when lying on my back on the ground.

# Some dogs are more intelligent than some people.

# There is someone out there for every rescue dog, if only they can find each other.

# When you give your heart to a rescue dog, parting is sweet sorrow.

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Evelyn


Find out more

Barlows Story; Told by a volunteer

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15 Padden Brook,Romiley


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